News / USA

Expert: In Some Countries, US Torn Between Values, Interests

A Libyan protester holds up a sign against Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi during a demonstration in Tobruk, Libya, February 23, 2011
A Libyan protester holds up a sign against Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi during a demonstration in Tobruk, Libya, February 23, 2011

Multimedia

Audio

The dilemma has been haunting the United States for decades. Do you prop up a regime that treats you favorably, even if that regime does not necessarily share your democratic principles? Or do you stand firm on your values, even if it means losing a partner or ally?

In the cases of Tunisia and Egypt, the United States opted for the former approach. Some say it paid for it dearly. They claim that not only did the U.S. sacrifice its own principles, it also ended up losing its partners and allies to popular revolts. Ironically, the revolts were about greater freedom and democracy – values, many believe, the U.S. should have supported in these countries all along. Others say that in propping up or tolerating some autocratic rulers, the U.S. is merely choosing between a known and an unknown, between a relationship it can, to some extent, control and one over which it might have no grip.

VOA’s Susan Yackee spoke about this dilemma and the Obama administration’s handling of the recent turmoil in North Africa and the Middle East with Michael Mandelbaum, a professor of American foreign policy at the Johns Hopkins University School of Advanced International Studies (SAIS).

Listen to our interview with Michael Mandelbaum:

Mandelbaum: The American government’s response has been confused and conflicted but that is, I think, appropriate because the situation in that part of the world is confusing and the United States does face, in some of these countries anyway, a conflict between its values and its interests.

Our American values would have a support movement against dictators everywhere since the United States stands for and has stood for, since the beginning and the founding of the republic, democracy. We founded our country in opposition to what we regarded as dictatorship.

Michael Mandelbaum
Michael Mandelbaum

On the other hand, in number of these countries the ruling autocrats carry out policies friendly and favorable to the United States, and there is legitimate fear that if they are swept from power, the new regime will not follow these pro-American and pro-Western policies and may be even more dictatorial than the old regime. So this is very difficult to reign for the American government and would be for any Administration, Republican or Democrat.

Yackee: We have so many areas of conflict right now. Is the Administration going to have to choose a reaction for a particular nation?

Mandelbaum: Well, obviously the Administration will tailor its response to the particulars of each individual country. But in many of these countries, as I say, the Administration and the country faces a conflict between our interests and our values.

But this is made slightly easier, the problem of the policy making is made slightly easier by the fact that the United States does not have a lot of leverage in a lot of these countries. In most of these countries, we do have some leverage in Egypt because of our aid package that goes mainly to the army.

But we really don’t have any leverage in Libya, unless we were to decide to use military force which, I think, is highly unlikely although I have heard calls in recent days for the international enforcement of no fly-zone over Tripoli so that Gahdafi cannot bomb his own citizens….

Yackee: Do you have any advice for the Administration?

Mandelbaum: My advice is to watch each event closely to keep foremost in their mind American interests, and I have two specific policy recommendations.

One of them -- and this is presented in the New York Times by their foreign affairs columnist Thomas Friedman -- is to do something about our dependence on oil by raising the price of gasoline. The real danger for the long term for the United States is that instability in the oil exporting part of the world -- and it is that the part of the world – will send the price of oil worldwide sky-high, plunging us and other countries back into deep recessions. And the way to avoid that is to reduce our dependence on oil, and the way to reduce our dependence is to impose higher gasoline tax. I make this proposal in my recent book “The Frugal Super Power: America’s Global Leadership in a Cash-Strapped Era.”

And the second thing, I think the administration and we all should keep very much in mind is the proper definition of democracy. Democracy does not mean just elections. It also means the protection of liberty, the protection of political liberty, that is civil rights, the protection of economic liberty, that is private property and the protection of religious liberty, that is freedom of worship.

So although we can cheer on dissidents and protesters against dictatorship, we have to remember that what we want for these countries is not simply free elections, but also the kind of protection of liberty that requires institutions that, unfortunately, take a long time to build.

NEW: Follow our Middle East reports on Twitter
and discuss them on our Facebook page.

You May Like

Photogallery Protests Continue in Ferguson, Spread to Other US Cities

Missouri officials say deployment of more than 2,000 National Guard soldiers helps curb second night of rampant arson and looting in Midwestern town More

Video Ebola, Crackdown on Illegals Hit Business in Guangzhou

Chinese city has largest community of Africans in Asia More

Video Legendary Lebanese Actress, Singer Sabah Dies at 87

Music and film diva, affectionately called 'Sabbouha' by millions of her fans, performed at Carnegie Hall in New York, Royal Albert Hall in London, Olympia in Paris, Sydney Opera House in Sydney More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Aung San Suu Kyi: Myanmar Opposition to Keep Pushing for Constitutional Changei
X
November 24, 2014 10:09 PM
Myanmar opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi says she and her supporters will continue pushing to amend a constitutional clause that bars her from running for president next year. VOA's Than Lwin Htun reports from the capital Naypyitaw in this report narrated by Colin Lovett.
Video

Video Aung San Suu Kyi: Myanmar Opposition to Keep Pushing for Constitutional Change

Myanmar opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi says she and her supporters will continue pushing to amend a constitutional clause that bars her from running for president next year. VOA's Than Lwin Htun reports from the capital Naypyitaw in this report narrated by Colin Lovett.
Video

Video Mali Attempts to Shut Down Ebola Transmission Chain

Senegal and Nigeria were able to stop small Ebola outbreaks by closely monitoring those who had contact with the sick person and quickly isolating anyone with symptoms. Mali is now scrambling to do the same. VOA’s Anne Look reports from Mali on what the country is doing to shut down the chain of transmission.
Video

Video Ukraine Marks Anniversary of Deadly 1930s Famine

During a commemoration for millions who died of starvation in Ukraine in the early 1930s, President Petro Poroshenko lashed out at Soviet-era totalitarianism for causing the deaths and accused today’s Russian-backed rebels in the east of using similar tactics. VOA’s Daniel Shearf reports from Kyiv.
Video

Video Hong Kong Protests at a Crossroads

New public opinion polls in Hong Kong indicate declining support for pro-democracy demonstrations after weeks of street protests. VOA’s Bill Ide in Guangzhou and Pros Laput in Hong Kong spoke with protesters and observers about whether demonstrators have been too aggressive in pushing for change.
Video

Video US Immigration Relief Imminent for Mixed-Status Families

Tens of thousands of undocumented immigrants in the Washington, D.C., area may benefit from a controversial presidential order announced this week. It's not a path to citizenship, as some activists hoped. But it will allow more immigrants who arrived as children or who have citizen children, to avoid deportation and work legally. VOA's Victoria Macchi talks with one young man who benefited from an earlier presidential order, and whose parents may now benefit after years of living in fear.
Video

Video New Skateboard Defies Gravity

A futuristic dream only a couple of decades ago, the hoverboard – a skateboard that floats above the ground - has finally been made possible. While still not ready for mass production, it promises to become a cool mode of transport... at least over some surfaces. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Falling Gas Prices Impact US Oil Extraction

With the price of oil now less than $80 a barrel, motorists throughout the United States are benefiting from gas prices below $3 a gallon. But as VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, the decreasing price of petroleum has a downside for the hydraulic fracturing industry in the United States.
Video

Video Tensions Build on Korean Peninsula Amid Military Drills

It has been another tense week on the Korean peninsula as Pyongyang threatened to again test nuclear weapons while the U.S. and South Korean forces held joint military exercises in a show of force. VOA’s Brian Padden reports from the Kunsan Air Base in South Korea.
Video

Video Mama Sarah Obama Honored at UN Women’s Entrepreneurship Day

President Barack Obama's step-grandmother is in the United States to raise money to build a $12 million school and hospital center in Kogelo, Kenya, the birthplace of the president's father, Barack Obama, Sr. She was honored for her decades of work to aid poor Kenyans at a Women's Entrepreneurship Day at the United Nations.
Video

Video Ebola Economic Toll Stirs W. Africa Food Security Concerns

The World Bank said Wednesday that it expects the economic impact of the Ebola outbreak on the sub-Saharan economy to cost somewhere betweenf $3 billion to $4 billion - well below a previously-outlined worst-case scenario of $32 billion. Some economists, however, paint a gloomier picture - warning that the disruption to regional markets and trading is considerable. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video Chaos, Abuse Defy Solution in Libya

The political and security crisis in Libya is deepening, with competing governments and, according to Amnesty International, widespread human rights violations committed with impunity. VOA’s Al Pessin reports from London.
Video

Video US Hosts Record 866,000 Foreign Students

Close to 900,000 international students are studying at American universities and colleges, more than ever before. About half of them come from Asia, mostly China. The United States hosts more foreign students than any other country in the world, and its foreign student population is steadily growing. Zlatica Hoke reports.

All About America

AppleAndroid